The future of food belongs to plants. If we are to transform our eating habits to avoid depleting the planet’s natural resources, plants need to become the main event of our meals, rather than a side dish. Researchers at UZH are investigating how we can maintain healthier diets and increase sustainability in the food industry. The latest UZH Magazin (in german) focuses on what all of us can do to maintain healthier, more sustainable diets and make agriculture more eco-friendly and productive.
It starts with breeding new plant varieties. Today this can be done faster than ever before thanks to novel genetic engineering methods such as the CRISPR/Cas9 gene scissors. This enables researchers to systematically modify plants to make them more resistant to diseases or pests, or to adapt them to difficult environmental conditions such as heat and drought. UZH plant biologists such as Ueli Grossniklaus and Beat Keller are working in this field.
New ground is also being broken in plant cultivation. Here, research carried out by environmental scientist Bernhard Schmid and evolutionary biologist Anna-Liisa Laine, among others, shows how biodiverse cultivation can not only make agriculture more ecological, but also more productive in the long run. A diverse mix of plants can increase crop yields and protect against diseases and pests.
We too can play a large role in the shift toward healthier and more sustainable eating habits. This includes eating less meat and more veggies – and taking an interest in how they are produced. Some people are taking this to the next level by growing their own vegetables, such as literary scholar Claudia Keller, who is part of a farming cooperative.